Study in the USA

Chinese students face hard choice

Yale Daily News

In the past week, hundreds of colleges across the United States have released their admissions decisions for the class of 2016. Acceptance letters, tucked into neat packages alongside T-shirts and posters, are still being sent to anxious students everywhere. One thing is certain: More and more of those letters are making their way to the most populous nation in the world.

While Chinese students have traditionally preferred to go abroad for graduate school, they are now making the jump much sooner. The past few years have witnessed an astonishing rise in the number of Chinese undergraduate students in the United States. According to the Institute of International Education, nearly 57,000 Chinese nationals enrolled in American colleges for the 2010-'11 academic year. That's more than a fivefold increase from four years ago, when the total number of Chinese college students in the States hardly exceeded 10,000.

Why are so many Chinese students going abroad for college?

About a year ago, a friend from high school told me that he was applying to transfer to a public university in the Midwest. I was thoroughly surprised. At the time, he was a freshman studying business at a decent, albeit not top-notch, university in Shanghai, and, by all accounts, he was doing well.

He consulted me about his options, and I advised him to reconsider. I knew that his family wasn't exceptionally wealthy, and a $150,000 price tag would put a considerable burden on his parents. I also knew that, although his English was quite good, the transition to an American college classroom could be a tough one.

What drove him to make the leap across the Pacific was disillusionment with the education he was getting, combined with a strong urge to maximize his future career prospects. He called his Chinese education "uninspiring," and said that his individuality was being stifled. He also doubted whether his Chinese degree would be able to prepare him sufficiently for Shanghai's hypercompetitive job market.

My friend's story turned out to be a successful one, as he quickly adapted to college life in America. He is currently studying finance and math, and he hopes to go into the finance industry when he graduates.

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